Monday, December 31, 2007

What if It had been Harry Potter?

The transit system in Ft. Worth Texas has a strict policy; there will be no loud or abusive behavior on their buses. The question is, what constitutes loud or abusive behavior. Is it loud or abusive when a woman reads to her children on the bus? Most sane people would answer no. What about when she reads something really subversive like the Bible?
Christine Lutz, a mother of four, was riding on the bus with her children on Saturday, sabbath for Seventh Day Adventists, and reading the Bible to them when the driver ordered her to stop reading. The bus driver insisted, "This is not the time or the place." Mrs. Lutz refused. A supervisor was then brought on board. When the mother refused to stop reading the Bible, The supervisor escorted her and her children off the bus.
Without knowing all the facts in the incident, it's hard to say for sure. Hypothetically, she could have been making a nuisance of herself. On the other hand, its hard to believe that the woman could have been creating a disturbance simply by reading the Bible to her children. Since when does a bus driver decide an appropriate time and place for a mother to be teaching her children the Bible? What if she had been reading Harry Potter or Grim's Fairy Tales? Can you picture the bus driver telling her that it's not an appropriate time or place to read these books to her children.
Religious conversation seems to make a good number of people uncomfortable. Religion and politics are the two things you don't bring up in polite conversation. But religious expression is a guaranteed right in the first amendment. In the end, it doesn't matter if this mother's conversation with her children was offensive to passengers or uncomfortable to them. The constitution does not guarantee the right to not be offended. Of course, I'm sure there are judges who could find that right in the constitution if they were so inclined.
Let's hope that this woman is able to sue the transit system in Ft. Worth and that it sends a signal to a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to faith.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Are Christians Taking Christ out of Christmas?

I remember that as a kid I would sometimes hear people express disapproval over Christmas being shortened to Xmas. You would hear a lot of expressions of disgust that, "Christ was being taken out of Christmas." In fact, Merry Xmas is a legitimately Christian expression, at least in writing. X is the Greek symbol for Christ. So merry Xmas is Merry Christmas.
Today, Christians are rallying together to combat the 'War on Christmas.' We don't like it that people have stopped saying, "Merry Christmas," for the more politically correct, "happy holidays." Actually, "happy holidays," should be offensive to about 10% of the population who consider themselves atheists. Maybe it's not such a politically correct term after all.
But if Christians are going to fault the secular world for taking Christ out of Christmas, perhaps they should think about how they celebrate Christmas themselves. I wonder how many Christians who complain so loudly about the war on Christmas actually came to either a Christmas Eve or Christmas day service. Remember what your mother said, "When you point a finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at you.
I realize that the reason so many Christians have forsaken the custom of going to Mass on Christmas is that pastors have not given them the option. Protestantism in particular has a long history of eschewing any Christmas celebrations. But most Christians today celebrate Christmas. The difference is that it is now a more secular holiday. Secular holiday, boy talk about your oxymorons!
One church in our town actually canceled services a couple of years ago when Christmas fell on a Sunday so that people could stay home and be with their families. Well, after all, that is what Christmas is about, isn't it.
Look, I don't believe Christians are required to attend religious services on Christmas. But please, if you are going to complain about people forgetting, "the reason for the season," don't be a hypocrite and forsake the traditional assembling of Christians on that day. After all, He truly is the reason for the season.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

From Apostolicity to Apostacy

Tiny Muskens, a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands, is calling for his flock to start referring to God as "Allah," as a way to relieve tensions between Christians and Muslims. According to the bishop, God is above the names we give Him, so it shouldn't be a problem. Someone should point out to this priest that we do not give names to God, we receive the ones He has revealed to us. God has not revealed Himself as Allah. Of course, in order for this argument to make sense, you have to believe that God has revealed Himself, something that may not be true for this apostate bishop. Incidentally, the head of the protestant church in the Netherlands opposes such a move, but on the grounds that it "does no justice to western identity."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vacation Bible School

This week we had Vacation Bible School. I led the music and instead of using the songs sent out with the program, we taught the children hymns. Some of the hymns they learned were 'Christ Be My Leader,' 'Salvation Unto Us Has Come,' 'Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands,' and 'Come, O Almighty King.' Needless to say it took some work explaining what these hymns meant and explaining the language, but I think it was well worth it. Did they get it all? Probably not, but how many adults get it all. They were exposed to Gospel truth in those hymns, which is the rich heritage of Lutheran hymnody. Some had no idea at all how to even negotiate the hymnals. That was OK too. We turned the pages for them even if they couldn't read and they stared at the pages. Everyone learned something. The hymns were on their lips and in their ears, and that was a start.

Monday, July 30, 2007

No Silly Love Songs

You'd think that Christians would have had enough of silly Jesus music. I wonder if we're conditioning our kids with this tripe by introducing the silly music they send out with the VBS programs. This week our congregation is having Vacation Bible School. I was recruited to lead the music since no one else wanted to do it. I've decided that there will be no "Jesus is my boyfriend" music. I'm taking this opportunity to teach the children hymns rather than the silly, bubblegum music they send out with the program. I'll keep you posted no how it goes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another Example of the Problem with Liberalism

An article in the Christian Science Monitor,, today tells of a gathering of pastors of various denominations who are asking the question, ""In the midst of a world of violence and suffering, how can we believe in an almighty and all-loving God?"
The problem of pain and violence is certainly hard to bear. This question reminds me of the trilemna, If God is almighty and good is good, evil does not exist. Wrong. If God is almighty and evil exists, God is not good. Wrong. If God is Good and evil exist, God is not almighty. Wrong. Scripture does give us answers in the face of suffering, but it's sometimes the answer we don't want to hear.
First of all, evil exists. There can be no doubt about that. Parents lose their children. Hurricanes displace hundreds of thousands and kill many. Wars bring out our brutal and greedy natures. Evil is alive and well. Perhaps the place they should have started is, why does evil exist. Scripture is clear on this point. Evil exists because man succumbed to temptation, in paradise, and sin, death, and destruction was introduced into the perfect world God created. It is God's judgment on sin, a judgment which He carries out with all righteousness. God is not to blame for the evil in this world. The problem is sin.
Second, God is almighty. Since evil does exist in this world, God is in control of it. He limits it and lets it advance according to His own purposes. He is not the author of evil, but since evil exists He uses it to carry out His will. Ephesians tells us that God causes all things to work after the purpose of His own will. In His mercy, however, God uses that evil to work the ultimate good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
Third, God is good. He proves His goodness by giving us His Son who has bore the sins of the world that He might save us eternally and restore us to paradise. Through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord we have hope that evil has been defeated and we await the restoration of God's good creation at the parousia of Christ. Of course, if you ignore these facts, especially the cross, evil can be a confusing problem. Even knowing these things Christians struggle with the reality of evil every day. But we have hope.
There were two things that annoyed me about this article. One is the feeling among the theologians that they have to come up answers, "that satisfy." They see Churches shrinking and their motivation seems to be getting butts back in the pews rather than proclaiming the truth.
Another thing that bothered me is the faithlessness of liberalism in the face of unpleasant facts. The organizer of the event, Pastor Liz Magill, said in response to the question, "I give up the 'almighty' part... God is as powerful as those who believe in Him or Her and who let God guide them.... But we don't always do that, so God becomes less powerful." This is, of course, the problem with liberalism. Who would anyone want to believe in the God that Ms. Magill worships? And they wonder why people are leaving those churches.
Finally it annoyed me that these so called "pastors" do not see what it is that pastors actually do. Another participant, a United Methodist female pastor, Barbara Herber, said, ""We don't have easy answers...Our primary job is to sit with people in their suffering because it's really lousy to sit alone." It may be the job of a pastor to sit with the bereaved in the midst of suffering, to hold their hand and comfort them by being a companion in their suffering, but ultimately it is to bring the Word of God to bear. That Word is the most comforting thing you can give.
That is not to say that pastors rush in with quick answers and rush back out. Sometimes people are not ready to hear the answer that Scripture gives about the problem of evil until they have had time to grieve, but to say that Scripture does not provide the answer to evil is a faithless position.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Born on the Fourth of July

Today our nation is again celebrating its independence from the land of fish and chips. In the Lord's prayer we are taught to pray for our daily bread, which Luther teaches also includes things like good government. Among the first article gifts of our heavenly Father, good government is certainly a great blessing, and we have a good government. Our constitution is, indeed, the best form of government under the sun.
What a privelege it is to be an American. What a privelege to enjoy the great freedoms this country recognizes as having been given by God. While there are many problems and inconsistencies in the way our governement actually governs, we are far better off than anyone living in any other nation.
May God continue to bless our nation and guarentee to us its freedoms.

Almighty God, who blesses mankind with good things and has established the gift of government without any merit or worthiness on our part that we may enjoy peace and tranquility, grant your continued blessings to the United States of America, its leaders, and its institutions, and by your mercy give those who govern us wisdom and resolve to lead us in justice, truth and peace, that our country and its leaders may, by your grace, conform to the purposes for which you have established the office of human government; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Some Thoughts on Birth Control

Alright, this is going to sound really wierd.
Most of the west sees the advent of the birth control pill as an unqualified good. It is believed to help people control their reproductive choices and so give them more control over their lives. It is seen as certainly lifting peple out of poverty, since children are certainly expensive to raise. The west is also concerned about a population explosion and an increasing scarcity of resources. For these reasons, the birth control pill and other products available are generally promoted in our culture.
But in other parts of the world, reproduction goes on. Live births in other parts of the world, especially the third world, far outstrip western cultures. To paraphrase 'the Doors,' we may have the guns, but they have the numbers.
Even in Europe, the West risks the danger of being outnumbered in coming generations by immigrant populations that do not share its values. England, France, Holland, and Germany are already beginning to experience some negative impacts of this phenomenon. Immigrant populations are becoming increasingly powerful in those countries. Some have speculated that in the next few generations Europe, along with its western values, may be overcome politically by the sheer numbers of these immigrant populations. It makes me wonder, has the west sewn the seeds of its own destruction by its position on birth control.
In America, where birth control has been wildly popular, we are beginning to experience the pangs of relative underpopulation. Our social security system relies on the replacement of workers to keep the system solvent. When the system was started there were roughly 15 workers for each retiree. Today that number is something like three to one. When the baby boomers begin to retire that number will shrink considerably. The only way to keep the system solvent, especially since our politicians have plundered whatever could have been saved and invested, is to either raise taxes on the working or increase immigration at an alarming rate. But these solutions will not work.
It used to be that every family had a built in social security policy. Parents would have children and care for them when they were young, and later the children would care for the parents. Ideally, large families insured the security of the parents. Now that the responsibility has shifted to the government, people have turned, mostly for reasons of convenience, to a model of 2.3 children. This is not enough to sustain Social Security.
I personally know people who have opted to have no children at all because they wanted their freedom and a healthy disposable income to spend on toys. In reality they are like children themselves who don't want to grow up. These people usually gripe and moan about welfare programs for children that they are forced to pay for through taxation. Ironically, it is these children, the ones about whom they complain, that will probably be supporting them in their old age.
Through birth control, has the west forgotten a fundamental principle of human existence? Does society need to multiply in order to sustain itself?
In the garden, God said to our first parents, "be fruitful and multiply." In my opinion, our culture tend to think of sex as being primarily for pleasure. Certainly this is one purpose. Sex does provide pleasure and strengthens the bonds of marriage. But have we unwisely eliminated one of God's purposes for sex, the propagation of the race? Will the west pay the consequences for this turn in our culture?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession- 25 June 1530

Our Lord tells us, "Whoever confesses Me before men, Him will I confess before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, Him will I deny before My Father who is in heaven."

I just finished spraying Round Up around my house. The weeds and little trees that have infiltrated the perimeter of my house make the house look unkempt, but even more, it threatens the foundation of our home. Those little trees become big trees and their roots threaten the very structure of our home. So I went around with a 1 gallon jug of chemicals to kill the weeds and will next go out with a hatchet and saw to take down the trees.

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. He says no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, Christ Jesus.

The little weeds and stink trees native to the human heart attack the Church at its foundation. Those weeds are the law and faith in human ability to save us. They attack the very foundation of our faith, that Christ alone saves.

The weeds had been growing for quite sometime because the house was unattended. The Roman Church, once a stalwart of western orthodoxy, began to have caretakers who were uninterested in preserving the faith, and instead looked upon the weeds as beautiful flowers, and only snipped them so they could sell them as such. The Popes began to use their power, not to preserve the faith, but to enrich themselves with wealth and power.

It was a nasty mess until an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, decided it was time to spray a little Round Up, on all the weeds that had grown up around the Church. His tools were the Word and Sacraments, the law and the gospel. He stepped forward to confess that sinful mankind is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. When he was threatened and ordered to stop, he gracefully and faithfully maintained his confession saying, "My conscience is bound to the Word of God. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Luther had not been the first to resist the abuses of the Roman Church, but he did it with such boldness, clarity, and faith in Christ that he is forever known as the Great Reformer of the Church. Luther did not attack the peripherals of Roman abuses, but went straight to the heart of the matter. Luther saw that the gospel was being buried under the law, and that Rome was denying Christ by teaching that good works contribute to our salvation.

But Luther was not alone. As Luther stood before the emperor at the diet of Worms in 1521, so his companions and princes stood before the same emporer in 1530, and presented a confession of Christ so clear that the enemies of the gospel could not come up with a confutation of it worth publishing. Reading the Augsburg Confession today we find it bound together by the central article of the faith, justification. The sweet gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone drips from every page. Those 28 articles are a confession of Christ as clear as any yet to be produced since the apostolic age.

Our Lord knew what He was demanding when He said, "Whoever confesses Me before men, I will confess Him before My Father in heaven." He was asking those who would follow Him to take up their cross, suffer the attacks of the evil one, the rejection of men, humility, suffering, and death. In other words they were to bear His image in this world. The authors and signers of our confessions did so with integrity and honor. They now dwell in the unapproachable light of their Father in heaven. Just as they, by grace, confessed Christ in this world, He has confessed them before His Father in heaven. With such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us press on in the great confession of our faith to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Oops! a French salad ending.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Confusion of the Kingdoms

Constitutional lawyer John Whitehead recently editorialized that Christians should be pacifists since Christ preached a message of non-retaliation and non-violence. He used as the model for Christian pacifism the sainted Martin Luther King Jr., the celebrated civil rights activist of hippie lore. This kind of drivel naturally drives confessional Lutherans, and others, up a wall. It is a horrible confusion of the two kingdoms.
Christians live in two kingdoms. The kingdom of the right is the Church, a dispenser of mercy and grace in the world through the Word and Sacraments. If he were referring to this kingdom he would be correct. The Church does not take up arms and settle worldly disputes. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." But the kingdom of the left is a kingdom of justice exercised by worldly power. It is a dispenser of vengeance and wrath wielded by the use of reason. It too is ruled by Christ since His ascension not by the Word but by human reason.
The problem with Whitehead's thesis is that he confuses the two kingdoms. Christians are citizens of both kingdoms. Christians are called to peace and mercy by the Church, but are called to arms and defense of justice by the State. As individuals living in the kingdom of the right we are indeed called to non-violence, but as citizens of the left hand kingdom we are called by legitimate authority to the defense of the nation. When rulers, who happen to be Christian, occupy an office in the left hand kingdom, they operate according to the callings of that office rather than their calling as Christians. This view is endorsed by Scripture in Romans 13.
Whitehead should stick to constitutional law and leave theology to the theologians.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Johann Gerhard

If you haven't already, I recommend that you buy the Repristination press translation of John Gerhard's 'Sacred Meditations.' It's the best devotional book I've ever read. It is filled with the warm, faithful meditations of one of the classic "rock-ribbed" Lutheran dogmaticians of classic Lutheran orthodoxy. It manages to be pious without becoming pietistic. It is a must read for the serious Christian.

Here is an excerpt:

"When the people would have made Christ a king He fled from them; but when they sought to put Him to a shameful and ignominious death upon the cross, He freely and voluntarily offered Himself. If thou wouldst become more and more conformed to Christ, take more satisfaction in the shame the world heaps upon thee, than in the empty glories it offers to thee. If thou canst not lightly esteem the honors of this world for the sake of Christ, thy Savior, how couldst thou rise to that point of love that thou wouldst pour out thy life for Him? There is no other path to the attainment of true glory with Christ than through a holy contempt for world glory, just as Christ Himself thorugh the ignominy of the cross entered into His glory. Therefore choose rather to be despised, to be lightly esteemed, to be scorned in this world, that thou mayst be honored of God in the world that is to come."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Yes, Barabbas, You are Free

He was not a likable person. He was a scoundrel, a wicked man. He was a bloody, violent, incorrigible criminal. The Jewish authorities certainly never would have lifted a finger to save the likes of Barabbas. But he was convenient. He was a tool. Barabbas was fortunate that the Jewish authorites hated the this Jesus of Nazareth so much, they were willing to release a murderer and an insurrectionist to the streets in order to insure our Lord's condemnation.
And so our Lord took the punishment due Barabbas. It was his condemnation, his flogging, his humiliation, his cross, his nails, his nakedness, and his death, but Christ became his substitute. Surely, if it hadn't been for the jealousy and hatred of the Jewish rulers, Barabbas, rather than Jesus, would have occupied the central cross that morning. It was Barabbas who would have been crucified, and rightly so, between two thieves.
But by the predetermined plan and purpose of God, our Lord was crucified and Barabbas went free. The one in whom Pilate could find no guilt took the place of the one in whom Pilate could find no earthly good. Barabbas is a wonderful illustration of the substitutionary atonement. God punishes His own, dearly loved Son, so that a nasty sociopath like Barabbas could go free.
I wonder where Barrabas went after this. I wonder if he ever realized what exactly happened there at the cross. If ever anyone should have appreciated the magnitude of our Lord's passion, it should have been Barabbas.
Yes, Barrabas, you are fortunate. You have a substitute. He has stepped into your place and paid the ultimate price for your sin, your idolatry and blasphemy, your despising of God's word, dishonoring of your parents, your murderous passions, adultrous thoughts, petty thefts, slander, and covetousness. Every crime you committed has been charged to His account. He died like the lawbreaker you were and still are.
Go Barabbas and gaze upon His wounds. See your substitute horribly blasphemed, forsaken by God and men, naked, bleeding, and dying for you. Mark it well, Barrabas, for this is what it took to set you free.
But remember, Barabbas, you are only one of many. He did it not for you alone, but for the whole world. He did for every Barrabas born of the seed of Adam. He did it for us all.
The joyful gospel of Pilate that surely rang in the ears of Barrabas as if it were a dream, rings also in our ears. "Barrabas, go, you are free." It is the gospel of Christ to every sinner. Someone has taken our place. The punishment due us has been paid by the innocent lamb of God, and God says to each of us, "Barrabas, go, you are free." We surely deserved every condemnation pronounced upon Barrabas, but an innocent victim has taken our place.
Like Barrabas there is blood on our hands. It might not be the blood that the geniuses in forensics are interested in, but is blood nevertheless. The blood on our hands is the blood of hatred and unjust anger, our covetousness and thefts, our adultery fantasies, our plotting to obtain what belongs to another, and our rebellious, scandalous, wicked turning from the one who made us and requires better. Those stains cannot be washed away by human effort. We are guilty and punishment is required.\
And because God intervenes in human history under the court of the pagan Pilate, the innocent is condemned and the guilty go free. Praise the Lord, for our innocent substitute does what Barrabas could never do. He goes condemned to the cross and thereby breaks the power of sin, plunders hell of its power, and lets all the condemned go free.
And like Barrabas there is no longer room at Calvary for us. We have been released from judgment, we have escaped death, and we are free to go. Yes, Barabas, you are free.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Baptism's Continuing Significance

No denomination values Baptism as highly as the Lutheran Church. The Reformed view Baptism largely as an outward sign of an inward thing, a mere symbol. Roman Catholics view Baptism as an initiating sacrament that infuses grace, which they view as a substance, for the purpose of starting one off on the path to salvation. Lutherans view Baptism as a means of grace through which God washes away sin, confers regeneration by the Holy Spirit, creates a living faith in the believer, and unites us to Christ.
Paul says in Romans chapter six, "Or don't you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
One of the benefits of Baptism that Paul so clearly teaches is that Baptism unites us to Christ so that we may share His life. Luther teaches in the Small Catechism, "It (baptism) indicates that the old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die along with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in rightoeusness and purity forever.
What Luther is teaching in the Small Catechism is that Baptism continues to work daily in the life of the believer, putting to death the old man and bringing to life the new. It happens once, but its effects are ongoing. Each day the Christian is renewed in His Baptism by, "daily contrition and repentance." This fits well with Paul's own assertion in the pages of Holy Scripture telling us that Baptism works new life in the believer, a Christ like life.
The comforts of Baptism are manifold. It assures of the forgiveness of sins and our identification with Christ. It teaches us that God does the saving alone, applying the salvation earned by Christ to us by water and the Word. And it works in us a renewal of life, which although incomplete in this life, has a beginning in Baptism. As often as we return to our Baptism by daily contrition and repentance, we receive the renewing effects of that Baptism and are empowered to live a Christ-like life.
So Baptism has enormous significance for us. It is central to the life of the Christian. That is why we should be reminded of our Baptism and its blessings often, even daily. In our Church we begin our service at the Baptismal font, which is located in the center of the chancel. By doing so we give a visual reminder to God's people that He has called us together as His children in the waters of Baptism where He first put His name upon us. I stick my fingers in the font, draw out its water, and make the sign of the cross over the congregation. I do this not because I believe the water in the font is somehow blessed and made holy water, but because people need every opportunity to be reminded of their baptism and its continuing sifnificance in the Christian life.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What, 2008 already?

It's hard to believe that we still have almost a year to go before the first primary, yet the presidential campaign is heating up already to the extent that the field is quickly narrowing in both parties to just a few candidates. On the Democratic ticket the field is as bleak as ever. That Hillary or Obama will get the nomination seems to be a foregone conclusion. Either one would be a disaster as the leader of our country.
What is most distressing is that the major candidates on the Republican side seem to be just as bleak. There is not a true conservative in the bunch. Guliani, the frontrunner, is a definite liberal. Mitch Romney, the liberal governor of Massachussets whose positions have been slightly to the left of Ted Kennedy, wants everyone to believe he has seen the light and is the conservative alternative in the race. John McCain, although strongly conservative in key areas, is one of the authors of the infamous, liberty destroying McCain-Feingold bill which regulated campaign finance laws and harshly limited free speech in the place we need it most, politics. In addition McCain has bought into the Al Gore, Chicken little, global warming scaremongering that threatens to wreck our economy.
There is, however, an interesting candidate in the field. He is little known because he is not a Washington powerhouse, MSM darling, or Hollywood hopeful. His name is Duncan Hunter, a US representative from southern California, but don't hold that against him. He has been a faithful Reagan conservative since 1980, a strong supporter of the military with 2 sons who have actually served in Iraq. He himself quit college to serve in Vietnam. He believes in a strong national defense, peace through strength, strong border security, and opposes free trade that takes American jobs to third world countries. He is not a phony conservative or a vichy Republican.
I encourage you all to check this candidate out. We need strong leadership in our country and I like his positions.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Conference on the Augsburg Confession

Final Preparations are underway for a new conference on the Augsburg Confession. It will be held on June 23, 2007 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Marion, Ohio. The purpose of the conference is to renew an interest among clergy and laity in the confessions of the Lutheran Church and to promote a greater fidelity to them.
The speakers for this conference will be Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, Rev. Dr. Lloyd Gross, Rev. Terry Cripe, Rev. Lance O'Donell, and Rev. Brett Cornelius. Dr. Rast will give the keynote address on Justification as the heart of the Augsburg Confession. The conference will include 4 breakout sessions on Worship, the Church, The Office of Holy Ministry, and Private Confession and Absolution.
The cost for the conference will be $30.00 for those who register before May 15th and $40.00 at the door. Registration forms will be made available by March 1st, and will be posted at
This conference will, I'm sure, prove to be a blessing to both clergy and laity. I hope that you will all consider attending.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Return of the LLF

The Lutheran Liturgical Forum has been a helpful email forum in the past for discussing liturgical matters and getting information. After a long shut down the LLF is now functioning again. I hope that those who subscribed in the past will continue to do so. If you haven't been a subscriber I invite you to send an email to:
In the past this email list has been the source of some very helpful information on the liturgy, church year, etc. , as well as some interesting debate. I hope that you'll check it out and join us to participate in the discussion.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

It's been awhile since I've gone ablogging, so here is my new post. It is taken from my last sermon.

Grace, peace, and mercy from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wine is a gift of God. I realize that wine can also be a curse, because any gift of God can be abused and turned into a curse rather than a blessing. When it is abused the effects are apparent and disgusting. Butwine is a gift of God. The Christian religion is not a tee-totaling religion. That is the Muslim religion. The Christian religion recognizes
that God gives man wine to cheer his heart. One of the Messianic signs
alluded to in our Old Testament lesson is that, “The mountains shall
drip with sweet wine.” When the Messiah delivers His people, they shall,
“Plant vineyards and drink its wine.” Wine is portrayed as a positive
good here and a sign of the Messianic kingdom.

Wine is especially appropriate at weddings. Weddings are occasions of
joy and happiness. Who would not want to accompany the joining of man
and woman in a lifelong union and not have this heart gladdening
beverage available? It would certainly not be those who invited our Lord
to their blessed wedding feast, It was certainly not Mary, the mother of
our Lord, who, when the wine gives out, goes to our Lord and pleads for
the couple. It was certainly not our Lord, who, when the wine gives out,
blesses that couple with His first miracle. In fact, He supplies more
wine, and not just a little. He changes six stone waterpots filled to
the brim, about 20 or 30 gallons each, to the best wine at the wedding.
After the wine gave out, He supplied about 480 bottles of wine,
estimating the amount conservatively.

It was the groom who was required to bring the wine. It was his duty as
host to see to the enjoyment of the guests. He was in charge of its
dispersal. He had control over when the wine was served and how much was
served. Unfortunately, this groom had planned poorly for his wedding
feast. The wine gave out.

It was an embarrassment for the couple to run out of wine. They had
failed to sufficiently cheer the hearts of their guests. It was also a
sign of their own human frailty, an example of the way we fail to serve
our fellow man. Human nature in its frailty often fails to do our duty
to God and man, not just in being hospitable, but in loving our neighbor
as we love ourselves, and, more importantly, loving God above all
things. We have failed to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and
strength. We have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. Born with
this sinful human nature, we have discovered that we do not have the
resources necessary to do what God requires of us. We are guilty.

But where all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, God
Himself sends a Redeemer. He sends His own Son to rescue us and deliver
us from the consequences of our sinful nature. He spares His own Son not
at all but freely gives Him up for the life of the world. Christ Himself
willingly goes to the cross and opens up His own veins so that the
mountains may drip with sweet wine, so that you can drink and have your
fill. There you find forgiveness for your sin. There Christ does what
you cannot do and saves you from your death, hell, the devil, and
eternal shame.

Weddings are a joyous occasion and should not be marked by shortages.
This is because the union of husband and wife in heart and body
represents something greater than the sum total of the bride and groom.
In the union of man and woman a mystery is revealed, the two shall
become one. The estate of marriage is meant to be a reflection of
relationship between Christ and His Church.

Paul teaches this in our epistle lesson. He says, “Wives, submit to your
own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as
Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of which He is the Savior.”
He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loves the Church and
gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing
with water through the word… In this same way husbands ought to love
their wives as their own bodies.” This unique relationship that Christ
calls man and woman to reflects the will of God not only for two
individuals but for mankind in general. God calls you into relationship
with Himself. As a husband lays down his life for his bride, or at least
he should, so Christ laid down His life, to make you His own. In the
waters of baptism He washed you and cleansed you so that you stand
before Him now without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and

When we see the groom standing at the altar, loving and cherishing the
woman coming down the isle to be His bride, we are reminded of the love
that Christ has for the Church. It is that love which Christ has for
you. He wants you to be His own and has spared no expense but gave
everything so that you would be His. When you sin and go astray, like
Hosea’s wife, He lovingly calls you back to mercy and grace. He forgets
your sins and welcomes you home.

Christ, your heavenly bridegroom, then, prepares a feast. This is no
meager meal. It’s not an MRE. He doesn’t provide the meager bread and
water of a prisoner. It is not the soup kitchen that philanthropist
provide for the poor and homeless. No. It is a marvelous feast provided
out of his limitless abundance. At that great feast, His wine does not
give out. There are no shortages, no lack of planning. He knows exactly
what you need and He provides it for you in spades. He doesn’t give just
a little, just enough to satisfy the palate. He gives out of His own
liberality and the abundance of His goodness. The mountains drip with
sweet wine in the kingdom of our Lord.

Perhaps we fail to recognize the goodness of God because we ourselves
are so sparing and limited in our capacity to bless and forgive others.
We are like the bridegroom at the wedding of Cana who measures out what
we think is just enough to satisfy but never waste. We are afraid to
waste things like mercy and forgiveness on those we think might not
appreciate them. Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall
my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?” You
know our Lord’s answer, “I tell you Peter not up to seven times, but
seven times seventy.” He doesn’t mean 490 and then you’re done. He means
keep forgiving. Repent! Quit being so stingy. Forgive truly as you have
been forgiven in Christ. Be sons of your father in heaven whose mercy,
grace and forgiveness has no limits.

Christ’s forgiveness has no limits. He is ready to forgive more than you
need. He will gladly waste His forgiveness on you. He lavishes His love
on you. He doesn’t spare any expense, but has paid for everything on the
cross and it is more than enough. Christ went overboard by giving His
precious blood for you. There is no giving out when it comes to God’s
forgiveness in Christ, because the precious blood of Jesus outweighs by
far all the sins of the whole world. God will be generous to you in
forgiveness and mercy and life. If Christ is so gracious and liberal
with earthly things like wine, why would we believe that He is stingy
with things like mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life?

So Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, has prepared a feast. And today we
come and enjoy a foretaste of that feast to come. Here in this cup the
mountains drip with sweet wine, the best wine. This is the best wine
because it is accompanied by His very blood. It is shed with love and
liberality on Calvary’s hill. We see it gushing out from His pierced
side. Our Lord’s wounded side is a fountain of grace and peace. It is
delivered to you here in this cup. It is a cup that never runs dry. His
forgiveness is always there. The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.
They are new to you this morning. Come and drink from the finest of
wine, squeezed from the grapes of wrath on Calvary and delivered to you
in this cup. There is no wine like it.

After the miracle of Cana, Christ’s disciples believed on Him. There He
revealed His glory. This is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. This
miracle was an epiphany to our Lord’s disciples. They saw and believed.
After seeing this sign they believed. Today Christ gives you His signs.
He brings you to the waters of baptism where He washes clean from every
spot or wrinkle. As one popular comedian puts it, “There’s your sign.”
He pronounces forgiveness through the pastor. There’s your sign. He
makes known His grace and mercy through the bread and wine of Holy
communion. There’s your sign. This is what He shows you so that you may
know His will toward you, and not doubt that He is there to forgive,
renew, and strengthen you to life eternal.

And this great miracle occurs on the joyous occasion of a wedding. He
produces His first miracle there, so that you may see how much God
approves of this estate of marriage and so that you may have a picture
of the love and longing that Christ has for you. It’s a little embarrassing
isn’t it, to think that Christ loves you so much, but He does. He is your
heavenly bridegroom who has spared no expense to make you His own and to
rejoice exceedingly over you. He celebrates His love for you with
liberality and abundance. And this He will do for eternity as you are
ushered into that ultimate wedding feast and there is joy and happiness
forever. Amen.